Back in 1995, TSR Inc., the company behind Dungeons & Dragons and other popular RPGs and strategy games, was going downhill. The management was doing some extremely bad decisions that eventually led to TSR's downfall and getting bought by a much more rational company, Wizards of the Coast.

One of the biggest mistakes of TSR was that it was extremely hostile towards RPG information exchange over the Internet. In this fateful year of 1995, in fateful day of July 14th, a particularly infamous posting to rec.games.frp.misc caught people's attention.

(The message ID is <3u652k$ncm@newsbf02.news.aol.com> - You can view this message through Google Groups at <http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=3u652k%24ncm%40newsbf02.news.aol.com>.)

The posting was titled "TSR Authorized Sites", and that listed all channels TSR had "approved of" for distribution of game material. For payment, the only way to publish adventures and other material were Dragon, Dungeon and Polyhedron magazines and newszines, and the freely distributed electronic material should be confined to reaches of MPG-Net (mpgn.com), America Online and GEnie, with other large sites being "considered".

The rest of the posting, titled "TSR Code of Ethics", dealt with what was not appropriate for public distribution.

You must remember that back in 1995, TSR was facing opposition from fundamentalist Christian movements and organizations such as BADD (Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons). That had gone on and on and on for years and years, with no end in sight. (Luckily, this vehement opposition has now backed down a great deal after the sudden fall of BADD in 1997 - and with Jack T. Chick still at it, it's guaranteed to die completely in following years =)

Here's a shortened form of what they wanted:

  1. "Evil shall not be portrayed in attractive light." (Bad guys are bad, mkay?) Likewise, Satanic stuff is right out.
  2. Everything is for entertainment only and should not have enough details to commit crimes by, or do something equally stupid. (Don't unleash your criminal master plan to the world in form of an AD&D module. Someone might execute it.)
  3. The Law Enforcement should be presented in good light.
  4. Crime and criminals should not be glorified.
  5. Monsters can be as nasty and evil as you can imagine, but there must be a way for the good guys to kill defeat them.
  6. No profanity, obscenity, smut or vulgarity. (Dammit.)
  7. Drama and horror are okay, just as long as you don't get into the (literally) gory details.
  8. Likewise, no graphical violence.
  9. Love stories are accepted, sexual themes should be avoided, explicit sexuality, rapes, and such themes are completely out. (As if our brave heroes had time for this... I mean, even the players don't always find time for this.)
  10. Nudity is accepted if it's within boundaries of good taste. (Since most of the games are verbally oriented, you must pronounce it "naked", not "nekkid", because the latter means a completely different thing.)
  11. Don't laugh at physically afflicted, handicapped or deformed people. Otherwise, they're okay. (No crooked old 36th level fighters banging PCs on head with a cane, muttering that stuff was much better when he was just a level 3 sprout, and these youngsters...)
  12. No racism - all races and nations must be equal.
  13. Slavery is OK, but should sound pretty disgusting.
  14. RL religions should not be slapped at, historic religions should be presented as they were, and invented religions should not be presented as credible alternative forms of worship. (Right. And I'm going to read Small Gods again, thank you very much.)
  15. Magic or magical rituals from "real life" should not appear in the games, everything should be fictional. (No, you may not sacrifice a chicken if the module involves fixing an abacus that is inside a cube made of glass panes.)
  16. If they drink, tell them narcotics and alcohol is bad. (This step is very hard - the taverns are pretty loud places. And the dwarves might slap me silly if I mention something as ridiculous as that!)
  17. The Player and the Character are always to be considered separate things and should always be referred to as different things.
  18. LARPING IS BAD! BAD, we say! Sit on your rump and imagine the stuff instead of running 'round the woods looking like a madman in badly sewn suit and a huge padded sword. Less sweat! (This rule was sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company.)
  19. Stuff from actual history is okay, but that doesn't mean we think all of that is acceptable. (And if you do a module based on TSR's net wars, we'll see you in court.)

If any of these things sound familiar, you may want to see the Comics Code Authority guidelines that have often included things like this.

Suffice to say, part of these rules were largely broken before they were published, and undoubtedly also broken afterwards...

See also: dracopolitics, BADD, political correctness

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